In this Feb. 7, 2018, file photo, workers climb atop the roof of the Space Needle, where most of the top is surrounded by a massive work platform, scaffolding and protective covering, as work on a major remodel of the iconic observation tower continues in Seattle.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Elaine Thompson

Look south to discover the future climate of U.S., Canadian cities

Study finds comparisons for future climate of U.S., Canadian cities

Wondering what your city’s climate will be like in a few decades?

Look south — about 1,000 kilometres south, says an unusual new study published Tuesday.

That’s the average distance between 540 cities in the United States and Canada and the nearest city that now has the climate that they could expect, says co-author Matt Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.

“The basic question we wanted to answer is, what is Toronto or Edmonton going to feel like if some of these forecasts come to pass as we expect them to?” said Fitzpatrick.

Science often presents climate change as numbers — data on average temperatures or rainfall.

“That never resonated with me,” said Fitzpatrick.

“I work with these data all the time, but I’ve no idea of what does that actually mean for the place that I live. How’s my climate going to change?

“This was an attempt to answer that question.”

READ MORE: Climate change causes annual temperatures to rise in Kelowna

Fitzpatrick’s cities represent about 250 million people. That’s more than three-quarters of the U.S. population and more than half of Canada’s.

For each city, he used 27 climate models to determine what its climate is likely to be by 2080. He used both a business-as-usual scenario and one in which emissions are reduced.

He then looked for a community which now has temperature, rainfall and variability most closely matching that future climate.

If nothing changes, he found, Montreal could have the climate of Chester, Penn. Calgary could be like Spearhead, N.D.

Toronto could feel like Secaucus, N.Y.; Winnipeg like Maplewood, Minn., Saint John, N.B., like Riverhead, N.Y.; Vancouver and Victoria like Seattle; Ottawa like South Shore, Ill.; Quebec City like Chatham, Ont., and Edmonton like Mendota Heights, Minn.

Fitzpatrick acknowledges the comparisons are simplistic. For example, they don’t account for extreme weather events, which are expected to be one of the main features of climate change.

“We’re having to ignore complexities of increased frequency and magnitude of extreme events.”

Fitzpatrick added that many of the comparisons are not exactly exact, especially under the business-as-usual scenario.

“For many urban areas,” he writes, ”we found substantial differences between future climate and the best contemporary climatic analog, underscoring that by the 2080s many cities could experience novel climates with no modern equivalent.”

Vancouver was the Canadian city which had the most approximate match. Calgary’s was the most exact.

The approach, which has been used in Europe and in conservation planning, still has powerful communication value, Fitzpatrick said.

It brings home that mitigation makes a difference. Reducing emissions changes Calgary’s climate comparison to Great Falls, Mont. — 665 kilometres northeast from Spearfish.

READ MORE: Harrison Ford knocks Trump, others who ‘denigrate science’

And seeing the distance on a map is a powerful representation of the magnitude of coming changes.

“In general, it hit home to me the dramatic transformation in climate that children living today are going to experience,” Fitzpatrick said.

“By the time I have grandchildren, if they live in the same place I live now, they wouldn’t recognize the climate I live in today. It’s going to be like a story from the past.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Summerland’s Monro house has had minimal changes in 110 years

Home, Zimmerman’s Gulch, Sweetheart cherry tree recognized during Heritage Week

Okanagan Shuswap weather: Glimpses of sun expected on another wintry day

The sun will be peeking out from behind the clouds for the next few days

Niedermayer jersey retirement ceremony a dream come true

Penticton minor hockey players bring home memories of a lifetime from Niedermayer jersey retirement

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

UPDATE: Tractor trailer overturned on Highway 3A near Yellow Lake

Drivers may be wise to plan an alternate route as crews will need to recover the truck

70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children: poll

The debate for pro and anti vaccinations has heated up after a measles outbreak in Vancouver

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

When Canada legalized weed last fall, it only allowed fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds

Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

But most analysts see a limited market for foldable-screen phones

Alcohol policies fizzle for Canadian governments as harms overflow: reports

About 80 per cent of Canadians drink, and most enjoy a drink or two

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Most Read